The Polaris Practice - An Ancient Approach To Organizational Navigation
The Polaris Practice is an approach based on the fundamental principle of “intelligent application of best practices” - a concept that traces its origins to the time of Alexander the Great and remains essentially unchanged to the present day. People working in human institutions, including businesses, endeavor to set clear, concise goals to define what they want to achieve - whether in the short term (in the next month) or whether in the long term (in the next five years). Successful adherents of this practice rely on following universally accepted “best practices” to accomplish these goals. Best practices are well-tested principles, developed by communities of expert practitioners in multiple disciplines, modified and refined over time, peer reviewed and published to stakeholders. They are universally accepted benchmarks - norms that anyone can use to measure progress against these benchmarks.
By themselves, best practices are useless – they exist primarily to inform a practitioner to develop a plan that achieves a goal. The plan is the “container” in which goals (or sets of goals) reside and are measured. If your plan is, “I need to increase services revenue growth by 30% in 6 months”, there may be three or more distinct goals that are part of that plan with multiple stakeholders, contributors and observers. Best practices are there to guide the practitioner from inception to completion of each goal. Once the plan is defined, it is necessary to measure the progress toward each goal. The more accurate the measures, the higher the probability that the output of the plan provides accurate information to help decide next actions - do you want to go left, right or stay on course? This navigation is useful only If you can trust the measurement data and its faithful reporting.
There are hundreds of software developers that provide business management solutions to practitioners seeking to set objectives, devise plans to achieve them and measure the results. That market is described in different ways - “business performance management”, “enterprise performance management”, “OKRs” (objectives and key results), and “management by objectives” are just a few. Others describe it from the human resources point of view versus the enterprise point of view. They describe it as individual personal objectives and goals for the employee to make sure that they're getting proper credit such (i.e. Annual Reviews). Others focus on some aspect of managing the enterprise (i.e. CRM, ERP, Supply Chain Management, Customer Support, etc.). Fundamental to all of these descriptions is a standard in the business world with the same basic workflow: goal setting, planning, execution tracking and measuring.
Virtually all solutions all start with a blank environment, assuming the practitioner already knows precisely what data they have to work with. They offer organizational tools that users populate with their intelligent information and transport that into their environment to define their goals, objectives, plans and measures. By ignoring the critical step of comparing goals to their best practice counterparts, the axiom of “garbage in/garbage out” takes over and the plan’s owner is left to navigate their journey by themselves and without instruments.
Polaris Best Practice Management
The Polaris Practice is fundamentally different. It’s an approach to guidance that starts with a best practice benchmark model against which the practitioner compares their goals to a vast body of best practices – many published, some handed down, but all accessible if one cares enough to find. These are matched to related objectives, plans and measures against the goals. This ensures the goal is achieved using a time-tested set of best practices developed over years of development and continually refined. It covers every aspect of commercial endeavor: engineering, human resources, finance, product development, sales & marketing, customer engagement and operations. The benchmarks embedded in the Polaris Practice requires a best practice that connects every goal to a plan and its corresponding objective and measure. When you adopt the Polaris Practice, you step onto the shoulders of giants.
Once you begin to use the Polaris Practice to track goals, it requires continual enhancement and validation of any deviation from communities of practice to ensure yours develop meaningfully. This peer review process leverages the talent and resources in your company and validates the practice among its relevant community of users to accepted norms and benchmarks.
Polaris Practice Stakeholder Management
Achieving any goal does not occur in a vacuum – it requires involvement, collaboration and coordination with stakeholders that can influence your results. Depending on their role, stakeholders may contribute to a goal, rely on its result or inform its progress. While stakeholders are difficult to track and manage, it is crucial that they be visible, so your goal planning considers “upstream” stakeholders that create situations that you inherit, “cross-stream” stakeholders that inform your progress and “downstream” stakeholders that are dependent on your results. If they change something, it affects you, it changes your world.
Polaris Practice allows you to manage a “Continuity Chain of Stakeholders” - their involvement in your world (and you theirs). It enables you to “pin” them to your plan, goal or task, involve them and track their progress and understand whether they can assist, validate, block or interrupt your progress.
Polaris Practice Measures Management
Accurate measures are the heart of any guidance system and the Polaris Practice is no exception. Measures, on their own, are merely “values” of something (i.e. $500k of subscriptions sold) at any given moment in time. All Polaris Practice Measures are tracked to the “system of record” that generated it with an audit trail that leads to the origin of the source. Its accuracy and auditability guarantee each Guidance Plan can be depended upon by its owner as an instrument for achieving an accurate end result. Confidence in the accuracy of the Polaris Practice Measure allows a meaningful calculation indicating ‘performance’ (performance indicator) to be made, i.e. “are we where we are supposed to be according to plan, at this point in time?”
Polaris Practice Measures require users to think carefully about their accuracy ensure the data representing the measure is verifiable, and therefore useful to management as a tool to make data driven decisions to guide the direction of the organization. This is fundamentally different from most business management systems that incorporate HR Performance and OKR/KPI applications without including a comprehensive and active de-risking capability. Polaris significantly reduces this risk by providing best practice measurement management processes and tools in its architecture. It provides accurate guidance from a goal’s inception to its completion.
Measurement process and tools in multiple ways:
Polaris “Data Collection” tracks where the data comes from:
Polaris “Data Quality Management” tracks the veracity and limitations of the data:
Polaris “Data Analysis” tracks the ownership, auditing and compilation profile of the data:
This is only a sampling of the extensive data mapping that informs and drives action within the Polaris Practice workflow. Every element informs and validates the others to deliver complete visibility.
Using the 3 pillars of best practice management, stakeholder management and measure management, Polaris Practice provides a systematic approach to achieve predictable and consistent results.